Jupiter, FL (February 21, 2011) – One of the aspects of campus life that students Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College in Jupiter say they appreciate the most is the wealth of extracurricular activities they have open to them. Despite the MacArthur campus’ intimate environment that promotes close interactions with professors, students have abundant choices to help them discover new interests and develop social connections. One student organization, The Corn Maya Club, was created by Wilkes Honors College students with the express purpose of allowing them to interact with the local community through service.
The town of Jupiter is distinctive in its large and diverse Hispanic population that has grown steadily over the last decade. The influx of peoples from various Hispanic cultures has created a rich social climate in the city. Honors College students who participate in Corn Maya are dedicated to promoting mutually beneficial interactions between themselves and the Hispanic community of northern Palm Beach County. The club is composed mostly of Spanish-speaking students, many of whom learned Spanish as a second language as part of their education at the Honors College. The organization strives to raise cultural awareness in the city of Jupiter by organizing events such as Fiesta Maya, an annual celebration of Guatemalan music, food, and dance. Such events promote the exchange of ideas, traditions, and art between the Spanish and English speaking communities of Jupiter.
Tara Boulos, a senior at the Honors College, is concentrating in International Studies and Spanish Literature and has been an active participant in the Corn Maya organization throughout her college career. This year, she assisted in hosting Fiesta Maya, and she says that the celebration has widened her cultural understanding. “Through attending the annual Fiesta Maya, I have been able to learn and experience local Guatemalan culture and customs,” says Boulos. “I am truly expanding my knowledge of other peoples’ cultures not only in class but in real moments at the University.”
While hosting these events is a highly rewarding undertaking, most of the club’s members say that the most valuable part of their work with Corn Maya is the club’s tutoring program. Students in the club regularly volunteer at the local El Sol Community Center, where they teach English to members of the Hispanic community. Student teachers instruct at least one night a week for two hours, and teach classes with sizes ranging from six students to more than twenty. This partnership has benefited local residents, but it has also been highly educational for the Honors College students. The tutors improve their Spanish as a result of their service learning activities, and many of them have been inspired to pursue advanced courses in Spanish. They also develop a greater appreciation for Hispanic culture and learn the value of participating in a non-profit service organization
El Sol has also provided students involved in Corn Maya with numerous internship opportunities. Christina Turn, an Honors College student who helps organize and schedule the teaching sessions, says that her volunteer experience will contribute to her goals for the future. She says, “Teaching ESL classes with Corn Maya has given me first-hand insight into the problems facing immigrants today.” Christina is concentrating in biology and pre-medicine, and she concludes that her experiences with Corn Maya have inspired her to accomplish service goals in her field of study. “El Sol has a direct, very real impact upon people’s lives, and participating with Corn Maya in its excellent programs has strengthened my desire to someday volunteer as a physician for Spanish-speaking communities.”
Students involved in Corn Maya say that the rigorous language program at the Honors College has helped them to master Spanish within a surprisingly short amount of time and pushed them to find opportunities to practice their language skills. Corn Maya gives undergraduate students a chance to practice their language studies in real-life situations, while they receive pride from giving back to the local community. Corn Maya club is thus a prime example of how the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College prepares students not only to achieve challenging academic goals but also to contribute in a positive way to their society.
byline: WHC Student Intern Megan Geiger